Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

An Extensive Investigation Into The Sources And Inspiration Of National Folk Song

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and expression, in comparison with the Scottish, and show few signs of the depth and glow of feeling in the burning words of the latter. The English ballads relating to King Arthur are greatly inferior in strength and spirit to the prose chronicles, and their dealing with the marvelous is coarse and commonplace in comparison with the spiritual and majestic mystery of the Welsh cycle of Arthurian romance. And the English ballads continued to degenerate, rather than improve, from the rude vigor of some of the Arthurian ballads, and took on the element of coarse humor which is char­acteristic of the Robin Hood cycle, from which nearly every gleam of poetry is eliminated. It may be said that the degeneracy of the English popular ballad was due to the spread of education among the people, and the development of their genius in more strictly literary forms under the influence of Chaucer and his associates. But the spread of education and the increase of literary production among the English people was by no means so general as to affect the quality of the popular ballad at this period, and certainly less than that which prevailed in Scotland at a later time, when the production of popular poetry was in its fullest flower. The adventures of the Eng­lish outlaws, of whom Robin Hood, however mythi­cal his actual existence, was the type, were not less
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